Built in 1861
The Main House of the Alegria Inn was built as a residence in 1861 by Alf Nelson for his family. A sea captain named John Martin Perry, his wife Mary and their children moved into the house around 1869. The next owners were J.W. Lyons and his wife Isabell. Possession passed to one of their sons, Fred Lyons (also a sea captain). He and his wife, Frances, raised four children in the house. When Captain Fred Lyons died in 1964, it was sold by his son to Lois Hollngsworth, an artist from Berkeley.
Lois began the transformation of the property to what more closely resembles what you see today. Lois created a dining room from the old porch, made a little cabin (the beginnings of Cove Cottage) out of an old chicken coop, and added the ocean facing deck onto the house. She also started building an A-frame foundry for her metal art work but did not finish it before she sold the property to Marilyn Fosse-Solomon in 1971.
From Residence to Inn in 1971
Marilyn was a charismatic and creative woman who grew up in Martinez, Marin County, and San Francisco. She managed some Bay Area rock bands, including Tower of Power and Jefferson Airplane before moving to Mendocino. Marilyn worked with local craftsmen to create the uniquely designed cottages and the woodworking in the main house and called the property “1021 Main Street, A Unique Guest House.” She operated it for some twenty years until just before her death in 1991. Marilyn’s heirs attempted to run the inn for a while but, having established careers of their own in different areas of California, they sold the property to Bob and Linda Blum of Pleasanton and the name was changed to Captain’s Cove Inn.
Bob and Linda worked hard to reestablish the inn. It was featured in Country Inns Magazine in the August 1996 issue then again in February 1997 when it was named one of the 10 Best Small Inns in the U.S. Soon after, Bob decided to make a career change and Linda put the inn on the market. Eric and Elaine Wing Hillesland purchased the inn from Linda in 1998.
The Raku House is added in 2005
The Raku House Inn begins its history in 1917 as a residence built for the widow, Mrs. Henry Nelson. Her vision was for a Craftsman style building, which was unique in Mendocino at that time. The barn out back was moved to the site in 1917 from its original location further down Main Street. (Interestingly there is a twin to the Raku House barn which is currently located on Ukiah Street just East of Corners Of The Mouth grocery.) The property remained with private families until 1968. After that, it was an annex to the Sears House Inn and then a restaurant, the Sip and Sup. Finally, in 1988, it was converted to a four room inn called McElroy’s Cottage Inn. The McElroy family operated the inn for ten years, then sold it to Bonnie and Larry Lawlor. The Lawlors ran the inn for seven years before selling it in 2005 to Eric and Elaine who continue to operate it as part of the Alegria Inn.
The current name for the inn is derived from the Japanese word, Raku. Loosely translated, the word means easy and comfortable, and open to possibilities.
Eric & Elaine
Eric and Elaine both grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and met while attending the University of California at Berkeley. Eric had a career in Mechanical Engineering, and Elaine worked with various architects in the East Bay. They honeymooned on the Mendocino Coast and returned every year on their anniversary. When their daughter Tavi was born in 1997, Eric and Elaine decided to find a new career that would allow all three of them to be together as they worked. Running an inn met their goals, and could be done in a beautiful place.
As Eric and Elaine began making improvements, they considered changing the name of the inn. A guest suggested the word “alegria”, which means happiness, joy, or merriment in Portuguese and Spanish. A light spirit. It seemed to fit their vision for the inn and their lives, so in January 2000, they changed the name of the inn to Alegria Oceanfront Inn & Cottages. While operating and improving the inn and raising Tavi together, Eric and Elaine strive to create a place that is alegria, lightening the spirits of their guests.